Sunday, 26 April 2015

Pesky pixelations paint Farage as the Fuhrer

An appropriately-timed piece of pixilation failure took place in Salford yesterday. The UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, was appearing on the BBC Breakfast programme in Media City Salford when a technical glitch caused a black pixel to appear under Farage’s nose giving him a Hitler-style toothbrush moustache.

Politics imitating art - this could have
 come straight from a scene in Father Ted

Appositely the glitch took place just as Farage was denying revelations from one of his former teachers at Dulwich College that the young Nigel sang Nazi marching songs and was even then considered a ‘racist’ and ‘fascist’ by staff.

Herr Fuhrer Farage was reported to have no comment to make at this moment; and one of his SS press officers said a statement would be forthcoming from his bunker at a more appropriate time.

Legality, Democracy, Freedom and Charity can be Different Things to Different People

The Tweet below makes the point very well within the discipline of Twitter's 140 character rule.

Terms and ideas such as legality, charity, democracy, freedom, etc, are all in of themselves a force for good. Yet when we begin to break them down and apply contemporary definitions they take on a new, and sometimes opposite, meaning.

Legality. Well, the Tweet above has succinctly exposed that the concept of legality can apply conveniently to anything the powers-that-be so desire.

Democracy. Another grand ideal. Yet when held up to the light of deeper scrutiny, like for instance how political parties are in the thrall of the corporations, the edifice of democracy begins to crumble.

Freedom. Thatcher packaged this one up and sold it as choice. The choice to own your council home. Though more than one third of those 'right-to-buy' homes are today part of property portfolios of private landlords. The choice to buy shares in state owned utilities such as gas and telecommunications, things that were yours anyway.

Charity. This is the practice of giving something voluntarily. Indeed the very act of charity is its own reward. That however is not what charity has become. Today charity is as much about gaining social status. Corporations appearing on primetime TV brandishing cheques the size of billboards emblazoned with corporate branding. This is actually the antithesis of a charitable act as it is performed in order to profit from personal publicity.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Swearing gets the thumbs up!

Whether swearing, the use of expletives, profanity, cursing, cussing, dirty language, using bad language, swearing like a trooper, or being a toilet mouth is generally frowned upon. People who express themselves through swear-words are often considered loutish; they can't articulate beyond the profane or are not very bright.

Not so it would appear. Some studies recently completed argue that swearing can actually be healthy and in addition stimulate emotional strength. Which flies in the face of the commonly held belief that swearing is the preserve of the ignorant or 'lower classes'.

In all honesty I have never held with the notion that cursing is somehow indicative of a narrow vocabulary; that people who swear because their access is limited to a but small pool of words. A friend of mine who is a fairly accomplished writer literally swears like a trooper. He uses the word 'fuck' as a means of emphasizing; and the fact he has a fairly 'posh' accent gives greater weight to his use of expletives.

The part of the article that tickles my fancy is its claim that firing off a mouthful of foul language can actually assist with pain management. As someone who makes regular use of profanity in its multifarious forms and who effusively expresses himself via execration and expletive, I have to own to not finding this form of verbal communication assistive in pain relief. Except during the tirade itself there is an unspoken suspension of pain. However, on completion of the volley of abuse services return to normal as pain takes up its rightful place - in my brain.    

Friday, 24 April 2015

Let Justice Hold Forth in the Janner Case

This Lord Janner affair is fast becoming a travesty of the justice system.

Last week I defended the position of people who lacked mental capacity being forced to stand trial. Indeed I included Lord Janner in this category. Nothing has occurred to change my mind in his area; I still firmly believe that in order to answer to criminal charges in a court of law the defendant must have mental capacity.

It is alleged that Janner, between 1969 and 1988, carried out at least 22 sex offences against children. Despite having strong evidence against the peer, the Crown Prosecution Service has made a ruling not to pursue the case any further. Their decision based on medical evidence pointing to Janner’s mental incapacity due to Alzheimer’s disease. The medical argument being that the dementia he was suffering from would stop him understanding any charges laid against him or questions put to him.

Ever since the CPS decision not to charge Lord Janner a number of disturbing incidents have been brought to the public’s attention. It would appear that despite his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in 2009 that Janner has been claiming expenses from the House of Lords. More surprisingly in April this year he had the capacity to sign a letter declaring his wish to remain in the Lords.

More disturbing is the story that Lord Janner signed over the deeds to a £2 m property to his children last year. This transaction was carried out during the height of the police investigations into child sex offences by Janner.

Liz Dux, a solicitor from Slater and Gordon representing several of the peer’s alleged victims, said: “They will be asking how a man who lacks the mental capacity to stand trial has sufficient capacity to give valid instructions to transfer his assets.

“It will be of great concern to them to see what may be their last opportunity to achieve any sort of justice deliberately obstructed.
“The court would be asked to look at any transactions undertaken in recent months which could constitute efforts to defraud potential creditors.”

As I stated at the beginning of this piece. I still stand by my views on people without mental capacity not being forced to face a trial in which they cannot participate. However, Janner, his family and his lawyer’s appear to be complicit in actions that are highly irregular, if not unlawful. A man who has the protection of the law to stop the state prosecuting him on the grounds of incapacity should not at the same time be able to carry out legal transactions that call for mental capacity.

Janner should not be able to have it both ways. He is either incapable on capacity grounds to face criminal charges, in which case the same capacity tests must apply when it comes to all other legal decisions made in his name.

For the sake of justice I hope that these infringements are dealt with in the correct manner; and that Janner, if he lacks capacity, is not allowed to flout the law in the future.  

Monday, 20 April 2015

Poor people still clinging to life-warns iain duncan smith

While it is so obviously a spoof (it's on NEWSTHUMP.COM!) as you read the piece it becomes very apparent that there is a thin line separating the truth from the spoof. Very cleverly written; and though IDS didn't actually utter those very words, we know he meant to.

More Tory Hypocrisy

The DUP helped prop up John Major’s Conservative government during the 1990s. In 2015 David Cameron is wooing the DUP in order to form a government. This is hardly news or ground-breaking politics. After all the full name of the party we call the Tories is: The Conservative and Unionist Party. And the DUP’s 6-or so seats may tip the balance in a few weeks.

But it’s Cameron’s rank hypocrisy that needles.

“The prospect of a Labour government propped up by the SNP is a "match made in hell", David Cameron has warned.”

The Tory Party, or to afford it its correct handle the Conservative and Unionist Party, is crying foul at the prospect of a Labour/SNP coalition. Was it really just over 6-months ago that the same PM was campaigning hell-for-leather to keep the Scots within the union? The same politician who made promise after promise, assurance upon assurance that our Caledonian cousins would fare better within GB than outside?

Well, he got his wish. Despite the fact many Scots are unhappy over the referendum result they remain part of the UK. However, Cameron is now complaining that even though Scotland remains an integral component of the union it doesn’t somehow deserve the right to be part of any government running the country.

Where were the wails of ‘Foul!’ when the DUP helped to prop up John Major’s moribund government in the mid-90s? Perfectly OK for a bunch of right-wing sectarian bigots (spot the difference) to have an influence on English politics; indeed to give sustenance to what was almost a corpse. But when the SNP look as though they may get to have influence in Westminster Cameron’s bottom lip begins to quiver.

My hope is that on May 7th this Tory junta is well and truly trounced at the ballot box and that the oleaginous Cameron slides back under the rock he inhabited pre-2010.

Pain Tells You That You’re Still Alive

Pain Tells You That You’re Still Alive

It’s quarter to three,
In the morning,
Yet persistently
Pain carries on;
And on.
Relentlessly stabbing me
With its fiery blades.
Whichever way I try to turn
It beats me to the punch
Getting there first
To claim its right of tenure.
Like a squatter,
But, without good cause,
Pain thumbs its nose
At the authority
Of my ownership
To the muscle,
Bone and nerves
It has taken
Deep residence within.
A common truism
States that pain,
Though a pain,
Tells you:
“You’re alive!”
“Great”, I growl,
“It’s now 3 am,
I know I’m alive,
As you’ve been
Telling me
All day long.
Now go,
And come back later,
If you feel the need
To further remind me
That I’m still alive!”

Friday, 17 April 2015

Haiku aimed at tax cheats

Drowning in your wealth;
Unburden your bulging purse;
And pay your taxes.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Police Arrest Mom Accused Of Abandoning Severely Disabled Son In Woods In Cobbs Creek

A mother of a severely disabled 21 year-old with cerebral palsy has been arrested for abandoning her son in a wood for five days. The man who is tetraplegic and without speech was left with a blanket and a copy of the Bible. He was left without food or water. Fortunately he was discovered and hospitalised; and it is reported no lasting damage was sustained. 

Of course this is an awful situation. The mother will be arrested and charged with an interesting range of crimes, including kidnapping? What's galling is the indignation from the authorities. We hear 'Why didn't she look for help?' or 'If she couldn't look after her child she should have given him to someone who would'.

Very laudable sentiments. Yet in the real world meaningless. In my job I come across parents and people who care for disabled people. During the past few years social care and support has felt the cold hand of austerity cuts (and I'm sure the US is no different).

Increasingly parents of disabled children are expected to take up more of the support and care. Similarly with family and friends who care for relatives and friends. Care and support packages are reduced while the share of the carer’s work is increased. A lot of the time respite is difficult to access as social workers are compelled to find ways of cutting expenditure.

None of us yet know the full story of the severely disabled young man abandoned in the Cobbs Creek Parkway, Pennsylvania. But even without the full facts we know this was the wrong thing to do. Yet we should be slow to judge. None of us know what help the mother was receiving from the state, if any; was she being pressurised to find work? What was her mental health state? Had her needs as a carer been assessed?

We are all aware of the social exclusion disabled people endure. This same exclusion can be visited upon those who care for disabled people. The idea that if she didn’t want to take care of her son all she needed to do was pass him onto someone who dis wish to take care of him is a very simplistic view.

I hope the young man recovers from any mental scars often left from this kind of experience. I also hope that instead of the knee-jerk reaction of charging the mother with anything they can lay their hands on the authorities look deeper into the causes of the breakdown in the relationship between son and mother that led to this very sad situation.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Californian Sheriff Deputies Violently Attack an Unarmed Incapacitated Man

A helicopter captures on video a mounted man who is trying to evade the police. According to police sources, Francis Pusok, 30, had stolen the horse, according to the police, to assist in avoiding arrest for identify theft.

Footage from a helicopter camera clearly shows Pusok, in red, falling from the horse. Two law enforcement officers then come into view. Each officer is pointing a taser gun. Which explains Pusok’s fall from the horse.

The video shows us Pusok picking himself up and running away. He stumbles; and falling again remains face down on the ground. This does not stop one officer tasering him from a distance of about 5 feet. Tasered Puzok then places his hands behind his back. This in any language is a sign of surrender. Pusok knows the game’s up; it’s a fair cop, guvnor.

Not so for these brave boys in blue. No, instead they begin a savage attack. First one beats him about the head with the taser gun; then both proceed to punch and kick the defenceless runaway.

During a period lasting more than two minutes 11 law enforcement officers join the game. The scene resembles a pack of animals finishing off their prey. The assaulters deliver 37 punches, 17 kicks, 4 baton strikes and 11 blows to the head – no mention of initial attacks where taser guns were used as bludgeons.

Next up pops San Bernardino County Sheriff McMahon who confesses he hasn’t watched all the footage. Why not Sheriff? This is a piece of footage under five minutes long. Why call a press conference if you can’t discuss the issues critical to this situation, namely the viciousness of your officers.

However, McMahon does find the video ‘disturbing’. He goes on to say: “If any sheriff went too far in this arrest they will be held accountable.” His failure to watch the complete video of the incident allows the Sheriff McMahon to couch his responses in such away. For the rest of the world who took the trouble to sit through the entire five-minute footage, there is no ‘if’.

These officers confronted a fugitive. The use of taser gun/s on the fugitive ensured he was debilitated enough to be restrained and arrested. The man even brought his hand behind his back inviting restraint. The violence meted out to Francis Pusok from this point on was gratuitous and sadistic. The perpetrators of this violent attack should have the full force of the law brought upon them. Rather than custodians of the law they have taken the law into their own hands and in a two minute frenzy of violence tried and judged Pusok.

Despite the vicious attack, Pusok is still alive. The same can’t be said for all too many African Americans who, with a sickening regularly, we see being executed by US law enforcement officers.

Sadly this is a trend that is creeping across the Atlantic as we saw with Mark Duggan a few years ago; and with the assassination of Jean Charles de Menendez and the Robocop who murdered newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

US Unhappy as 'Back-Yard' Countries Refuse to Place Sanctions on Venezuela

The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC, is a regional bloc of Latin SAmerican and Caribbean states created in December 2011. In 2010 President Evo Morales of Bolivia stated that CELAC was: "A union of Latin American countries is the weapon against imperialism. It is necessary to create a regional body that excludes the United States and Canada… it is the best time for prime ministers of Latin America and the Caribbean to gestate this great new organization without the United States to free our peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean."

Given the, often bloody, history of this region and the often unwanted attention foisted upon many of the CELAC states by the USA it is hardly surprising that such a body has been formed.

Yet, the USA refuses to accept it neither has the authority or the muscle to walk into these countries and dictate terms. This was illustrated this week when the US sub-secretary for Latin America Roberta Jacobson voiced her ‘disappointment’ “that there were not more countries to defend (the sanctions). They were not made to harm Venezuelans or the Venezuelan government.”

Roberta Jackson, US Sub-Secretary for Latin America is miffed because the
entire CELAC membership of 33 states refuses to agree to sanctions for Venezuela

In criticism of the solidarity expressed by Latin American countries for Venezuela Jacobson uttered that, “The tone that Latin American leaders are using demonizes the United States as if it were the source of Venezuela's problems, and this makes it hard for us to proceed pragmatically.”

Demonizes? Whoa, slow down for a minute. Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Chile, etc, etc. Come on USA you’ve stamped your military power across this region demonising and vilifying any and every progressive movement that has attempted to break the strangulating chains of your blood-sucking corporations.

If you want proof of the USA bully-boy tactics in the region just listen to what Smedley Butler an ex-United States Marine Corps major general had to say about America’s actions in the 1930s:

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

These kind of actions continued decade after decade; and having the misfortune of living in the USA’s ‘back-yard’ Central American and Caribbean states have felt the full force of having the world bully as a close neighbour.

Back to the present. The USA is now attempting to impose economic sanctions on Venezuela mainly because this state has for most of this century been governed by Leftist socialist governments who have pushed a progressive programme with policies that include nationalization, social welfare programs and opposition to neoliberalism policies favoured by the IMF and the World Bank.

Indeed Chavez was striving to create with the Bolivarian State of Venezuela a communal state, whose main idea is to build self-government institutions like communal councils, communes, and communal cities.

On the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013 Nicolas Maduro took office as the democratically elected president of Venezuela. Since then the US has been running a negative campaign against both Maduro and the Bolivarian Stsate of Venezuela. However, their attempts at imposing sanctions are being met with resistance from CELAC.

Highly respected politicians such as the former Uruguayan president, Jose Mujica are vocally supporting Venezuela and its president. More so in March 2015 all 33 CELAC member states came out in opposition to the US’s demand for sanctions. This action provoked some 5 million Tweets across 105 countries protesting against President Obama’s attempts at sanctions.

A word to the wise USA, sort out your own home. Put roofs over the heads of your millions who are homeless. Give to the 40+ million Americans who do not have medical insurance. Stop the corporations bleeding their workers dry as they squeeze every cent of profit. Cease giving tax breaks to the rich while the real wealth creators work for starvation wages. Stop your wars and stop arming every would-be tyrant on the basis of my enemies enemy is my friend; it hasn’t ever worked and won’t in the future.

Instead look to your Latin American and Caribbean neighbours for political and democratic guidance. Because they’re the future…you’re yesterday’s news.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Don't block me in!

The picture shows a small area opposite the wheelchair allocated area on trains. This area is leads to the automatic carriage door that leads to the vestibule and toilet; and is the only exit wheelchair users can access.

If blocked with luggage it traps the wheelchair user within the carriage. Thus we’re unable to access the toilet. Or even get off the train if our stop is earlier than the train’s termination.

On countless occasions I have politely requested that passengers don’t leave their buggies, suitcases, rucksacks, Tesco’s weekly shop, double bass, and various indeterminate objects in these spaces.

Mostly my beseeching has been disregarded. On one occasion a rather nice elderly couple entered the carriage Mrs Nice Elderly Couple strolled along the aisle searching out their seat reservations while Mr Nice Elderly Couple began stowing away the half-a-house they had decided needed a holiday. On finding space for several rather large pieces of baggage Mr Nice Elderly Couple mopped the sweat he’d worked-up from his labours from his wet brow. All that remained was a suitcase about half the size of Hampshire.

“Phew, hot work!” this travelling, Mr Nice Elderly Couple wheezed at me, either grinning or struggling to ensure the breath he was trying to catch wasn’t his last. I couldn’t be too sure as he was looking decidedly doddery even before he took on the Herculean task of luggage storage.

I smiled weakly in return; not sure if getting into a conversation with someone potentially so close to his maker was wise.

Nodding to me, or at least think it was a nod, it could have been a trial-run at his last earthly movement, he then began to wobble along the carriage to where Mrs Nice Elderly Couple had expelled a squatter from her reserved seats.

“Excuse me!” I called after him. “You not supposed to leave luggage in that space” I stated. To which he, with disturbingly furrowed brow (where did he conjure up all that extra forehead to create what looked like a map of Clapham Junction?), asked: “Oh, why not?”

Not really wishing to engage in a big debate I pointed to the (admittedly not overly large and quite poorly located) sign telling people not to block area with luggage.

He looked a bit put out, so I reinforced the sign’s message by explaining that his piece of luggage, without reference to its incredibly large volume, blocked my access to the exit; and this meant I couldn’t move freely around the train, especially making it impossible for me to get to the toilet.

“Sorry, I’ll move it while you go to the toilet” he offered, missing the point by a distance not far short of his giant suitcase.

As he began to shift it I said: “I don’t need to use the toilet right now…”, at which he replaced the suitcase and toddled off to his seat.

“You have to move the luggage from this area” I called after him with all the authority I could muster, without making this into the in-train journey entertainment.

He, not bothering to stop, called over his shoulder, “Just let me know when you’re ready to use the toilet and I’ll come and move the case.”

Of course, why didn’t I think of that? The reasonable mind will always uncover a reasonable solution to everyone’s satisfaction. Now, had I the gift of levitation this might have been considered a reasonable solution. I don’t, so I pressed the button for the train manager and left it to him to explain to Mr Nice Elderly Couple why he wasn’t allowed to leave one half of his house in that particular space.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

It's Labour's Move...

I totally agree that Cameron's government has a terrible record on pretty much every aspect of life. None more so than his record on disability issues. It is safe to say he has made life hell for a substantial portion of disabled people in the UK; and for those he hasn't managed to attack, he's coming for them if he regains power.

Now we, disabled people know this; our comrades who support us in our struggle also know this; even organisations such as Disability Rights UK, who sold their soul to this junta for a few measly grants, know this.

This being so, why hasn't Labour grasped the fact that sticking to Tory policies around disability issues is not a clever tactic? There are millions of disabled voters who on polling day most certainly will not vote Tory; as for the LibDems, the less said the better.

Many of this group are 'natural' Labour voters. However, Labour is not being seen as the party that will support disabled people. This is a massive error on the part of Labour. It would not take a seismic shift in policy for Labour to attract a lot of the disabled vote. A few changes in policy would suffice. For instance:

·       scrapping the Work Capability Assessment in favour of a fair and transparent test
·       ending the necessity to re-assess all DLA recipients on indefinite awards
·       making the PIP tests fairer
·       lifting the closure of ILF
·       making Access to Work easier to access and opening it out to more disabled people

Obviously those policy changes alone wouldn’t compel every disabled voter to place an ‘X’ in the Labour box. However, it would secure masses of votes that will instead go to the Greens, the SNP, or sadly not cast.

Come on Labour. It’s not too late to move to the Left.